EVELINA IN CONTINUATION.
I HAVE just received a most affecting letter from Mr. Macartney. I
will inclose it, my dear Sir, for your perusal. More than ever have
I cause to rejoice that I was able to assist him. Mr. Macartney to
IMPRESSED with deepest, the most heartfelt sense of the exalted humanity with which you have rescued from destruction an unhappy stranger, allow me, with humblest gratitude, to offer you my fervent acknowledgments, and to implore your pardon for the terror I have caused you.
You bid me, Madam, live: I have now, indeed, a motive for life, since I should not willingly quit the world, while I withhold from the needy and distressed any share of that charity which a disposition so noble would otherwise bestow upon them.
The benevolence with which you have interested yourself in my affairs, induces me to suppose you would wish to be acquainted with the cause of that desperation from which you snatched me, and the particulars of that misery of which you have so wonderfully been a witness. Yet, as this explanation will require that I should divulge secrets of a nature the most delicate, I must intreat you to regard them as sacred, even though I forbear to mention the names of the parties concerned.
I was brought up in Scotland, though my mother, who had the sole care of me, was an English-woman, and had not one relation in that country. She devoted to me her whole time. The retirement in which we lived, and the distance from our natural friends, she often told me, were the effect of an unconquerable melancholy with which she was seized upon the sudden loss of my father, some time before I was born.
At Aberdeen, where I finished my education, I formed a friendship with a young man of fortune, which I considered as the chief happiness of my life:-but, when he quitted his studies, I considered it as my chief misfortune; for he immediately prepared, by direction of his friends, to make the tour of Europe. As I was designed for the church, and had no prospect even of maintenance but from my own industry, I scarce dared permit even a wish of accompanying him. It is true, he would joyfully have borne my expenses: but my affection was as free from meanness as his own; and I made a determination the most solemn, never to lessen its dignity by submitting to pecuniary obligations.
We corresponded with great regularity, and the most unbounded confidence, for the space of two years, when he arrived at Lyons in his way home.
He wrote me thence the most pressing invitation to meet him at Paris, where he intended to remain some time. My desire to comply with his request, and shorten our absence, was so earnest, that my mother, too indulgent to control me lent me what assistance was in her power, and, in an ill-fated moment, I set out for that capital.
My meeting with this dear friend was the happiest event of my life: he introduced me to all his acquaintance; and so quickly did time seem to pass at that delightful period, that the six weeks I had allotted for my stay were gone, ere I was sensible I had missed so many days. But I must now own, that the company of my friend was not the sole subject of my felicity: I became acquainted with a young lady, daughter of an Englishman of distinction, with whom I formed an attachment, which I have a thousand times vowed, a thousand times sincerely thought, would be lasting as my life. She had but just quitted a convent in which she had been placed when a child, and though English by birth, she could scarcely speak her native language. Her person and disposition were equally engaging; but chiefly I adored her for the greatness of the expectation, which, for my sake, she was willing to resign.
When the time for my residence in Paris expired, I was almost distracted at the idea of quitting her; yet I had not the courage to make our attachment known to her father, who might reasonably form for her such views as would make him reflect, with a contempt which I could not bear to think of, such an offer as mine. Yet I had free access to the house, where she seemed to be left almost wholly to the guidance of an old servant, who was my fast friend.
But, to be brief, the sudden and unexpected return of her father, one fatal afternoon, proved the beginning of the misery which has ever since devoured me. I doubt not but he had listened to our conversation; for he darted into the room with the rage of a madman. Heavens! what a scene followed!-what abusive language did the shame of a clandestine affair, and the consciousness of acting ill, induce me to brook! At length, however, his fury exceeded my patience, he called me a beggarly, cowardly Scotchman. Fired at the words, I drew my sword; he, with equal alertness, drew his; for he was not an old man, but, on the contrary, strong and able as myself. In vain his daughter pleaded;-in vain did I, repentant of my anger retreat-his reproaches continued; myself, my country, were loaded with infamy, till no longer constraining my rage,-we fought,-and he fell!
At that moment I could almost have destroyed myself! The young lady fainted with terror; the old servant, drawn to us by the noise of the scuffle, entreated me to escape, and promised to bring intelligence of what should pass to my apartments. The disturbance which I heard raised in the house obliged me to comply; and, in a state of mind inconceivable wretched, I tore myself away.
My friend, whom I found at home, soon discovered the whole affair. It was near midnight before the woman came. She told me that her master was living, and her young mistress restored to her senses. The absolute necessity for my leaving Paris, while any danger remained, was forcibly argued by my friend: the servant promised to acquaint him of whatever passed, and he to transmit to me her information. Thus circumstanced, with the assistance of this dear friend, I effected my departure from Paris, and, not long after, I returned to Scotland. I would fain have stopped by the way, that I might have been nearer the scene of all my concerns; but the low state of my finances denied me that satisfaction.
The miserable situation of my mind was soon discovered by my mother; nor would she rest till I communicated the cause. She heard my whole story with an agitation which astonished me:-the name of the parties concerned seemed to strike her with horror:-but when I said, We fought, and he fell; -"My son," cried she, "you have then murdered your father!" and she sunk breathless at my feet. Comments, Madam, upon such a scene as this, would to you be superfluous, and to me agonizing: I cannot, for both our sakes, be too concise. When she recovered, she confessed all the particulars of a tale which she had hoped never to have revealed.-Alas! the loss she had sustained of my father was not by death!-bound to her by no ties but those of honour, he had voluntarily deserted her!-Her settling in Scotland was not the effect of choice,-she was banished thither by a family but too justly incensed.-Pardon, Madam, that I cannot be more explicit!
My senses, in the greatness of my misery, actually forsook me, and, for more than a week, I was wholly delirious. My unfortunate mother was yet more to pitied; for she pined with unmitigated sorrow, eternally reproaching herself for the danger to which her too strict silence had exposed me. When I recovered my reason, my impatience to hear from Paris almost deprived me of it again; and though the length of time I waited for letters might justly be attributed to contrary winds, I could not bear the delay, and was twenty times upon the point of returning thither at all hazards. At length, however, several letters arrived at once, and from the most insupportable of my afflictions I was then relieved; for they acquainted me that the horrors of parricide were not in reserve for me. They informed me also, that as soon as the wound was healed, a journey would be made to England, where my unhappy sister was to be received by an aunt, with whom she was to live.
This intelligence somewhat quieted the violence of my sorrows. I instantly formed a plan of meeting them in London, and, by revealing the whole dreadful story, convincing this irritated parent that he had nothing more to apprehend from his daughter's unfortunate choice. My mother consented, and gave me a letter to prove the truth of my assertions. As I could but ill afford to make this journey, I travelled in the cheapest way that was possible. I took an obscure lodging,-I need not, Madam, tell you where,-and boarded with the people of the house.
Here I languished, week after week, vainly hoping for the arrival of my family; but my impetuosity had blinded me to the imprudence of which I was guilty in quitting Scotland so hastily. My wounded father, after his recovery, relapsed, and when I had waited in the most comfortless situation for six weeks, my friend wrote me word that the journey was yet deferred for some time longer.
My finances were then nearly exhausted; and I was obliged, though most unwillingly, to beg further assistance from my mother, that I might return to Scotland. Oh, Madam!-my answer was not from herself;-it was written by a lady who had long been her companion, and aquainted me that she had been taken suddenly ill of a fever,-and was no more!
The compassionate nature of which you have given such noble proofs, assures me I need not, if I could, paint to you the anguish of a mind overwhelmed with such accumulated sorrows.
Inclosed was a letter to a near relation, which she had, during her illness, with much difficulty, written; and in which, with the strongest maternal tenderness, she described my deplorable situation, and intreated his interest to procure me some preferment. Yet so sunk was I by misfortune, that a fortnight elapsed before I had the courage or spirit to attempt delivering this letter. I was then compelled to it by want. To make my appearance with some decency, I was necessitated myself to the melancholy task of changing my coloured clothes for a suit of mourning;- and then I proceeded to seek my relation.
I was informed he was not in town.
In this desperate situation, the pride of my heart, which hitherto had not bowed to adversity, gave way; and I determined to intreat the assistance of my friend, whose offered services I had a thousand times rejected. Yet, Madam, so hard is it to root from the mind its favourite principles or prejudices, call them which you please, that I lingered another week ere I had the resolution to send away a letter, which I regarded as the death of my independence.
At length, reduced to my last shilling, shunned insolently by the people of the house, and almost famished, I sealed this fatal letter; and, with a heavy heart, determined to take it to the post office. But Mr. Branghton and his son suffered me not to pass through their shop with impunity; they insulted me grossly, and threatened me with imprisonment, if I did not immediately satisfy their demands. Stung to the soul, I bid them have but a day's patience, and flung from them in a state of mind too terrible for description.
My letter which I now found would be received too late to save me from disgrace, I tore into a thousand pieces; and scarce could I refrain from putting an instantaneous, an unlicensed, a period to my existence.
In this disorder of my senses, I formed the horrible plan of turning foot-pad; for which purpose I returned to my lodging, and collected whatever of my apparel I could part with; which I immediately sold, and with the produce purchased a brace of pistols, powder and shot. I hope, however, you will believe me, when I most solemnly assure you, my sole intention was to frighten the passengers I should assault with these dangerous weapons; which I had not loaded but from a resolution,-a dreadful one, I own,-to save myself from an ignominious death if seized. And, indeed, I thought, that if I could but procure money sufficient to pay Mr. Branghton, and make a journey to Scotland, I should soon be able to, by the public papers, to discover whom I had injured, and to make private retribution.
But, Madam, new to every species of villainy, my perturbation was so great, that I could with difficulty support myself, yet the Branghtons observed it not as I passed through the shop.
Here I stop:-what followed is better known to yourself. But no time can ever efface from my memory that moment, when, in the very action of preparing for my own destruction, or the lawless seizure of the property of others, you rushed into the room and arrested my arm!-It was indeed an awful moment!-the hand of Providence seemed to intervene between me and eternity: I beheld you as an angel!-I thought you dropt from the clouds!-The earth, indeed, had never presented to my view a form so celestial!-What wonder, then, that a spectacle so astonishing should, to a man disordered as I was, appear too beautiful to be human?
And now, Madam, that I have performed this painful task, the more grateful one remains of rewarding, as far as is in my power, your generous goodness, by assuring you it shall not be thrown away. You have awakened me to a sense of the false pride by which I have been actuated;-a pride which, while it scorned assistance from a friend, scrupled not to compel it from a stranger, though at the hazard of reducing that stranger to a situation as destitute as my own. Yet, oh! how violent was the struggle which tore my conflicting soul ere I could persuade myself to profit by the benevolence which you were so evidently disposed to exert in my favour!
By means of a ring, the gift of my much-regretted mother, I have for the present satisfied Mr. Branghton; and, by means of your compassion, I hope to support myself either till I hear from my friend, to whom at length I have written, or till the relation of my mother returns to town.
To talk to you, Madam, of paying my debt, would be vain; I never can! the service you have done me exceeds all power of return: you have restored me to my senses; you have taught me to curb those passions which bereft me of them; and, since I cannot avoid calamity, to bear it as a man! An interposition so wonderfully circumstanced can never be recollected without benefit. Yet allow me to say, the pecuniary part of my obligation must be settled by my first ability.
I am, Madam, with the most profound respect, and heartfelt gratitude,
Your obedient, and devoted humble servant, J. MACARTNEY.
EVELINA IN CONTINUATION. Holborn, July 1.-5 o'clock in the morning.
O SIR, what and adventure have I to write!-all night it has occupied my thoughts, and I am now risen thus early to write it to you.
Yesterday it was settled that we should spend the evening in Marybone
Gardens, where M. Torre, a celebrated foreigner, was to exhibit some
fire-works. The party consisted of Madame Duval, all the Branghtons,
M. Du Bois, Mr. Smith, and Mr. Brown.
We were almost the first persons who entered the Gardens, Mr. Branghton having declared he would have all he could get for his money, which, at best, was only fooled away at such silly and idle places.
We walked in parties, and very much detached from one another. Mr. Brown and Miss Polly led the way by themselves; Miss Branghton and Mr. Smith followed; and the latter seemed determined to be revenged for my behaviour at the ball, by transferring all his former attention for me to Miss Branghton, who received it with an air of exultation; and very frequently they each of them, though from different motives, looked back, to discover whether I observed their good intelligence. Madame Duval walked with M. Du Bois, and Mr. Branghton by himself; but his son would willingly have attached himself wholly to me; saying frequently, "come, Miss, let's you and I have a little fun together: you see they have all left us, so now let's leave them." But I begged to be excused, and went to the other side of Madame Duval.
This Garden, as it is called, is neither striking for magnificence nor for beauty; and we were all so dull and languid, that I was extremely glad when we were summoned to the orchestra, upon the opening of a concert; in the course of which I had the pleasure of hearing a concerto on the violin by Mr. Barthelemon, who to me seems a player of exquisite fancy, feeling and variety.
When notice was given us that the fire-works were preparing we hurried along to secure good places for the sight; but very soon we were so encircled and incommoded by the crowd, that Mr. Smith proposed the ladies should make interest for a form to stand upon: this was soon effected: and the men then left us to accommodate themselves better; saying, they would return the moment the exhibition was over.
The fire-work was really beautiful; and told, with wonderful ingenuity, the story of Orpheus and Eurydice: but, at the moment of the fatal look which separated them for ever, there was such an explosion of fire, and so horrible a noise, that we all, as of one accord, jumpt hastily from the form, and ran away some paces, fearing that we were in danger of mischief, from the innumerable sparks of fire which glittered in the air.
For a moment or two I neither knew nor considered whither I had run;
recollection was soon awakened by a stranger's addressing me with,
"Come along with me, my dear, and I'll take care of you."
I started; and then, to my great terror, perceived that I had outrun all my companions, and saw not one human being I knew! With all the speed in my power, and forgetful of my first fright, I hastened back to the place I had left;-but found the form occupied by a new set of people.
In vain, from side to side, I looked for some face I knew; I found myself in the midst of a crowd, yet without party, friend, or acquaintance. I walked in disordered haste from place to place, without knowing which way to turn, or whither I went. Every other moment I was spoken to by some bold and unfeeling man; to whom my distress, which I think must be very apparent, only furnished a pretence for impertinent witticisms, or free gallantry.
At last a young officer, marching fiercely up to me, said, "You are a sweet pretty creature, and I enlist you in my service;" and then, with great violence, he seized my hand. I screamed aloud with fear; and forcibly snatching it away, I ran hastily up to two ladies, and cried, "for Heaven's sake, dear ladies, afford me some protection!"
They heard me with a loud laugh, but very readily said, "Ay, let her walk between us;" and each of them took hold of an arm.
Then, in a drawling, ironical tone of voice, they asked what had frightened my little Ladyship? I told them my adventure very simply, and intreated they would have the goodness to assist me in finding my friends.
O yes, to be sure, they said, I should not want for friends, whilst I was with them. Mine, I said, would be very grateful for any civilities with which they might favour me. But imagine, my dear Sir, how I must have been confounded, when I observed, that every other word I spoke produced a loud laugh! However, I will not dwell upon a conversation, which soon, to my inexpressible horror, convinced me I had sought protection from insult, of those who were themselves most likely to offer it! You, my dearest Sir, I well know, will both feel for and pity my terror, which I have no words to describe.
Had I been at liberty, I should have instantly run away from them when I made the shocking discovery: but, as they held me fast, that was utterly impossible: and such was my dread of their resentment or abuse that I did not dare make any open attempt to escape.
They asked me a thousand questions, accompanied by as many halloos, of who I was, what I was, and whence I came? My answers were very incoherent;-but what, good Heaven, were my emotions, when, a few moments afterwards, I perceived advancing our way-Lord Orville!
Never shall I forget what I felt at that instant: had I, indeed, been sunk to the guilty state which such companions might lead him to suspect, I could scarce have had feelings more cruelly depressing.
However, to my infinite joy, he passed us without distinguishing me; though I saw that in a careless manner, his eyes surveyed the party.
As soon as he was gone, one of these unhappy women said, "Do you know that young fellow?"
Not thinking it possible she should mean Lord Orville by such a term,
I readily answered, "No, Madam."
"Why then," answered she, "you have a monstrous good stare, for a little county Miss."
I now found I had mistaken her, but was glad to avoid an explanation.
A few minutes after, what was my delight to hear the voice of
Mr. Brown, who called out," Lord, i'n't that Miss what's her name?"
"Thank God," cried I, suddenly springing from them both, "thank God,
I have found my party."
Mr. Brown was, however, alone; and, without knowing what I did,
I took hold of his arm.
"Lord, Miss," cried he, "we've had such a hunt you can't think! some of them thought you was gone home: but I says, says I, I don't think, says I, that she's like to go home all alone, says I."
"So that gentleman belongs to you, Miss, does he?" said one of the women.
"Yes, Madam," answered I, "and I now thank you for your civility; but as I am safe, will not give you any further trouble."
I courtsied slightly, and would gave walked away; but, most unfortunately, Madame Duval and the two Miss Branghtons just then joined us.
They all began to make a thousand enquiries; to which I briefly answered, that I had been obliged to these two ladies for walking with me, and would tell them more another time: for, though I felt great comparative courage, I was yet too much intimidated by their presence, to dare be explicit.
Nevertheless, I ventured once more to wish them a goodnight, and proposed seeking Mr. Branghton. These unhappy women listened to all that was said with a kind of callous curiosity, and seemed determined not to take any hint. But my vexation was terribly augmented when, after having whispered something to each other, they very cavalierly declared, that they intended joining our party! and then, one of them very boldly took hold of my arm, while the other, going round, seized that of Mr. Brown; and thus, almost forcibly, we were moved on between them, and followed by Madame Duval and the Miss Branghton.
It would be very difficult to say which was greatest, my fright, or Mr. Brown's consternation; who ventured not to make the least resistance, though his uneasiness made him tremble almost as much as myself. I would instantly have withdrawn my arm: but it was held so tight I could not move it; and poor Mr. Brown was circumstanced in the same manner on the other side; for I heard him say, "Lord, Ma'am, there's no need to squeeze one's arm so!"
And this was our situation,-for we had not taken three steps, when,-O sir,-we again met Lord Orville!-but not again did he pass quietly by us:-unhappily I caught his eye;-both mine immediately were bent to the ground; but he approached me, and we all stopped.
I then looked up. He bowed. Good God, with what expressive eyes did he regard me! Never were surprise and concern so strongly marked:-yes, my dear Sir, he looked greatly concerned: and that, the remembrance of that, is the only consolation I feel for an evening the most painful of my life.
What he said I know not; for indeed, I seemed to have neither ears nor understanding; but I recollect that I only courtsied in silence. He paused for an instant, as if-I believe so,-as if unwilling to pass on; and then, finding the whole party detained, he again bowed, and took leave.
Indeed, my dear Sir, I thought I should have fainted; so great was my emotion, from shame, vexation, and a thousand other feelings, for which I have no expressions. I absolutely tore myself from the woman's arms; and then, disengaging myself from that of Mr. Brown, I went to Madame Duval, and besought that she would not suffer me to be again parted from her.
I fancy-that Lord Orville saw what passed; for scarcely was I at liberty, ere he returned. Methought, my dear Sir, the pleasure, the surprise of that moment, recompensed me for all the chagrin I had before felt: for do you not think, that his return manifests, for a character so quiet, so reserved as Lord Orville's, something like solicitude in my concerns? such at least was the interpretation I involuntarily made upon again seeing him.
With a politeness to which I have been sometime very little used, he apologized for returning; and then inquired after the health of Mrs. Mirvan, and the rest of the Howard Grove family. The flattering conjecture which I have just acknowledged, had so wonderfully restored my spirits, that I believe I never answered him so readily, and with so little constraint. Very short, however, was the duration of this conversation; for we were soon most disagreeably interrupted.
The Miss Branghtons, though they saw almost immediately the characters of the women to whom I had so unfortunately applied, were, nevertheless, so weak and foolish, as merely to titter at their behaviour. As to Madame Duval, she was for some time so strangely imposed upon, that she thought they were two real fine ladies. Indeed, it is wonderful to see how easily and how frequently she is deceived. Our disturbance, however, arose from young Brown, who was now between the two women, by whom his arms were absolutely pinioned to his sides: for a few minutes his complaints had been only murmured: but he now called out aloud, "Goodness, Ladies, you hurt me like any thing! why, I can't walk at all, if you keep pinching my arms so!"
This speech raised a loud laugh in the women, and redoubled the tittering of the Miss Branghtons. For my own part, I was most cruelly confused: while the countenance of Lord Orville manifested a sort of indignant astonishment; and, from that moment, he spoke to me no more till he took leave.
Madame Duval, who now began to suspect her company, proposed our taking the first box we saw empty, bespeaking a supper, and waiting till Mr. Branghton should find us.
Miss Polly mentioned one she had remarked, to which we all turned. Madame Duval instantly seated herself; and the two bold women, forcing the frightened Mr. Brown to go between them, followed her example.
Lord Orville, with an air of gravity that wounded my very soul, then wished me good night. I said not a word; but my face, if it had any connection with my heart, must have looked melancholy indeed: and so I have some reason to believe it did; for he added with much more softness, though no less dignity, "Will Miss Anville allow me to ask her address, and to pay my respects to her before I leave town?"
O how I changed colour at this unexpected request!-yet, what was the mortification I suffered in answering, "My Lord, I am-in Holborn!"
He then bowed and left us.
What, what can he think of this adventure! how strangely how cruelly have all appearances turned against me! Had I been blessed with any presence of mind, I should instantly have explained to him the accident which occasioned my being in such terrible company:-but I have none!
As to the rest of the evening, I cannot relate the particulars of what passed; for, to you, I only write of what I think; and I can think of nothing but this unfortunate, this disgraceful meeting. These two wretched women continued to torment us all, but especially poor Mr. Brown, who seemed to afford them uncommon diversion, till we were discovered by Mr. Branghton, who very soon found means to release us from their persecutions, by frightening them away. We stayed but a short time after they left us, which was all employed in explanation.
Whatever may be the construction which Lord Orville may put upon this affair, to me it cannot fail of being unfavourable; to be seen-gracious Heaven! to be seen in company with two women of such character!-How vainly, how proudly have I wished to avoid meeting him when only with the Branghtons and Madame Duval;-but now, how joyful should I be had he seen me to no greater disadvantage!-Holborn, too! what a direction! he who had always-but I will not torment you, my dearest Sir, with any more of my mortifying conjectures and apprehensions: perhaps he may call,-and then I shall have an opportunity of explaining to him all the most shocking part of the adventure. And yet, as I did not tell him at whose house I lived, he may not be able to discover me; I merely said in Holborn; and he, who I suppose saw my embarrassment, forbore to ask any other direction.
Well, I must take my chance!
Yet let me, in the justice to Lord Orville, and in justice to the high opinion I have always entertained of his honour and delicacy,-let me observe the difference of his behaviour, when nearly in the same situation, to that of Sir Clement Willoughby. He had, at least, equal cause to depreciate me in his opinion, and to mortify and sink me in my own; but far different was his conduct:-perplexed, indeed, he looked, and much surprised:-but it was benevolently, not with insolence. I am even inclined to think, that he could not see a young creature whom he had so lately known in a higher sphere, appear so suddenly, so strangely, so disgracefully altered in her situation, without some pity and concern. But whatever might be his doubts and suspicions, far from suffering them to influence his behaviour, he spoke, he looked with the same politeness and attention with which he had always honoured me when countenanced by Mrs. Mirvan.
Once again, let me drop this subject.
In every mortification, every disturbance, how grateful to my heart, how sweet to my recollection, is the certainty of your never-failing tenderness, sympathy and protection! Oh, Sir, could I upon this subject, could I write as I feel,-how animated would be the language of your devoted EVELINA.
EVELINA IN CONTINUATION. Holborn, July 1st.
LISTLESS, uneasy, and without either spirit or courage to employ myself, from the time I had finished my last letter, I indolently seated myself at the window, where, while I waited Madame Duval's summons to breakfast, I perceived, among the carriages which passed by, a coronet-coach, and in a few minutes, from the window of it, Lord Orville! I instantly retreated, but not I believe, unseen; for the coach immediately drove up to our door.
Indeed, my dear Sir, I must own I was greatly agitated; the idea of receiving Lord Orville by myself,-the knowledge that his visit was entirely to me,-the wish of explaining the unfortunate adventure of yesterday,-and the mortification of my present circumstances,-all these thoughts, occurring to me nearly at the same time, occasioned me more anxiety, confusion, and perplexity, than I can possibly express.
I believe he meant to sent up his name; but the maid, unused to such a ceremony, forgot it by the way, and only told me, that a great Lord was below, and desired to see me; and, the next moment, he appeared himself.
If, formerly, when in the circle of high life, and accustomed to its manners, I so much admired and distinguished the grace, the elegance of Lord Orville, think Sir, how they must strike me now,-now, when far removed from that splendid circle, I live with those to whom even civility is unknown, and decorum a stranger!
I am sure I received him very awkwardly: depressed by a situation so disagreeable-could I do otherwise? When his first enquiries were made, "I think myself very fortunate," he said, "in meeting with Miss Anville at home, and still more so in finding her disengaged."
I only courtsied. He then talked of Mrs. Mirvan, asked how long I had been in town, and other such general questions, which happily gave me time to recover from my embarrassment. After which he said, "If Miss Anville will allow me the honour of sitting by her a few minutes (for we were both standing) I will venture to tell her the motive which, next to enquiring after her health, has prompted me to wait on her thus early."
We were then both seated; and, after a short pause, he said, "How to apologize for so great a liberty as I am upon the point of taking, I know not;-shall I, therefore, rely wholly upon your goodness, and not apologize at all?"
I only bowed.
"I should be extremely sorry to appear impertinent,-yet hardly know how to avoid it."
"Impertinent! O, my Lord," cried I, eagerly, "that, I am sure, is impossible!"
"You are very good," answered he, "and encourage me to be ingenuous-"
Again he stopped: but my expectation was too great for speech. At last, without looking at me, in a low voice, and hesitating manner, he said, "Were those ladies with whom I saw you last night ever in your company before?"
"No, my Lord," cried I, rising and colouring violently, "nor will they ever be again."
He rose too; and, with an air of the most condescending concern, said, "Pardon, Madam, the abruptness of a question which I knew not how to introduce as I ought, and for which I have no excuse to offer but my respect for Mrs. Mirvan, joined to the sincerest wishes for your happiness: yet I fear I have gone too far!"
"I am very sensible of the honour of your lordship's attention," said I; "but-"
"Permit me to assure you," cried he, finding I hesitated, "that officiousness is not my characteristic; and that I would by no means have risked your displeasure, had I not been fully satisfied you were too generous to be offended without a real cause of offence."
"Offended!" cried I, "no, my Lord, I am only grieved-grieved, indeed! to find myself in a situation so unfortunate as to be obliged to make explanations, which cannot but mortify and shock me."
"It is I alone," cried he, with some eagerness, "who am shocked, as it is I who deserve to be mortified. I seek no explanation, for I have no doubt; but in mistaking me, Miss Anville injures herself: allow me therefore, frankly and openly, to tell you the intention of my visit."
I bowed, and we both returned to our seats.
"I will own myself to have been greatly surprised," continued he, "when I met you yesterday evening, in company with two persons who I was sensible merited not the honour of your notice: nor was it easy for me to conjecture the cause of your being so situated; yet, believe me, my incertitude did not for a moment do you injury. I was satisfied that their characters must be unknown to you; and I thought, with concern, of the shock you would sustain when you discovered their unworthiness. I should not, however, upon so short an acquaintance, have usurped the privilege of intimacy, in giving my unasked sentiments upon so delicate a subject, had I not known that credulity is the sister of innocence, and therefore feared you might be deceived. A something which I could not resist, urged me to the freedom I have taken to caution you; but I shall not easily forgive myself if I have been so unfortunate as to give you pain."
The pride which his first question had excited, now subsided into delight and gratitude; and I instantly related to him, as well as I could, the accident which had occasioned my joining the unhappy women with whom he had met me. He listened with an attention so flattering, seemed so much interested during the recital, and, when I had done, thanked me in terms so polite, for what he was pleased to call my condescension, that I was almost ashamed either to look at or hear him.
Soon after the maid came to tell me, that Madame Duval desired to have breakfast made in her own room.
"I fear," cried Lord Orville, instantly rising, "that I have intruded upon your time;-yet who, so situated, could do otherwise?" Then, taking my hand, "Will Miss Anville allow me thus to seal my peace?" he pressed it to his lips, and took leave.
Generous, noble Lord Orville! how disinterested his conduct! how delicate his whole behaviour! Willing to advise, yet afraid to wound me!-Can I ever, in future, regret the adventure I met with at Marybone, since it has been productive of a visit so flattering? Had my mortifications been still more humiliating, my terrors still more alarming, such a mark of esteem-may I not call it so?-from Lord Orville, would have made me ample amends.
And indeed, my dear Sir, I require some consolation in my present very disagreeable situation; for, since he went, two incidents have happened, that, had not my spirits been particularly elated, would greatly have disconcerted me.
During breakfast, Madame Duval, very abruptly, asked, if I should like to be married? and added, that Mr. Branghton had been proposing a match for me with his son. Surprised, and, I must own, provoked, I assured her that in thinking of me, Mr. Branghton would very vainly lose his time.
"Why," cried she, "I have had grander views for you myself, if once I could get you to Paris, and make you be owned; but if I can't do that, and you can do no better, why, as you are both my relations, I think to leave my fortune between you; and then, if you marry, you never need want for nothing."
I begged her not to pursue the subject, as, I assured her, Mr. Branghton was totally disagreeable to me; but she continued her admonitions and reflections, with her usual disregard of whatever I could answer. She charged me, very peremptorily, neither wholly to discourage, nor yet to accept Mr. Branghton's offer, till she saw what could be done for me: the young man, she added, had often intended to speak to me himself, but, not well knowing how to introduce the subject, he had desired her to pave the way for him.
I scrupled not, warmly and freely, to declare my aversion to this proposal; but it was to no effect; she concluded, just as she had begun, by saying, that I should not have him, if I could do better.
Nothing, however, shall persuade me to listen to any other person concerning this odious affair.
My second cause of uneasiness arises, very unexpectedly, from M. Du Bois; who, to my infinite surprise, upon Madame Duval's quitting the room after dinner, put into my hand a note, and immediately left the house.
This note contains an open declaration of an attachment to me; which, he says, he should never have presumed to have acknowledged, had he not been informed that Madame Duval destined my hand to young Branghton,-a match which he cannot endure to think of. He beseeches me earnestly to pardon his temerity; professes the most inviolable respect; and commits his fate to time, patience, and pity.
This conduct in M. du Bois gives me real concern, as I was disposed to think very well of him. It will not, however, be difficult to discourage him; and therefore, I shall not acquaint Madame Duval of his letter, as I have reason to believe it would greatly displease her.
EVELINA IN CONTINUATION. July 3rd.
O SIR, how much uneasiness must I suffer, to counterbalance one short morning of happiness!
Yesterday the Branghtons proposed a party to Kensington Gardens; and, as usual, Madame Duval insisted upon my attendance.
We went in a hackney-coach to Piccadilly, and then had a walk through Hyde Park; which in any other company would have been delightful. I was much pleased with Kensington Gardens, and think them infinitely preferable to those of Vauxhall.
Young Branghton was extremely troublesome; he insisted upon walking by my side, and talked with me almost by compulsion; however, my reserve and coldness prevented his entering upon the hateful subject which Madame Duval had prepared me to apprehend. Once, indeed, when I was accidentally a few yards before the rest, he said, "I suppose, Miss, aunt has told you about-you know what?-ha'n't she, Miss?"-But I turned from him without making any answer. Neither Mr. Smith nor Mr. Brown were of the party; and poor M. Du Bois, when he found that I avoided him, looked so melancholy, that I was really sorry for him.
While we were strolling round the garden, I perceived, walking with a party of ladies at some distance, Lord Orville! I instantly retreated behind Miss Branghton, and kept out of sight till we had passed him; for I dreaded being seen by him again in a public walk with a party of which I was ashamed.
Happily I succeeded in my design, and saw no more of him; for a sudden and violent shower of rain made us all hasten out of the gardens. We ran till we came to a small green-shop, where we begged shelter. Here we found ourselves in company with two footmen, whom the rain had driven into the shop. Their livery I thought I had before seen; and, upon looking from the window, I perceived the same upon a coachman belonging to a carriage, which I immediately recollected to be Lord Orville's.
Fearing to be know, I whispered Miss Branghton not to speak my name. Had I considered but a moment, I should have been sensible of the inutility of such a caution, since not one of the party call me by any other appellation than that of Cousin or of Miss; but I am perpetually involved in some distress or dilemma from my own heedlessness.
This request excited very strongly her curiosity: and she attacked me with such eagerness and bluntness of enquiry, that I could not avoid telling her the reason of my making it, and, consequently, that I was known to Lord Orville: an acknowledgment which proved the most unfortunate in the world; for she would not rest till she had drawn from me the circumstances attending my first making the acquaintance. Then, calling to her sister, she said, "Lord, Polly, only think! Miss has danced with a Lord!"
"Well," cried Polly, "that's a thing I should never have thought of! And pray, Miss, what did he say to you?"
This question was much sooner asked than answered; and they both became so very inquisitive and earnest, that they soon drew the attention of Madame Duval and the rest of the party; to whom, in a very short time, they repeated all they had gathered from me.
"Goodness, then," cried young Branghton, "if I was Miss, if I would not make free with his Lordship's coach, to take me to town."
"Why, ay," said the father, "there would be some sense in that; that would be making some use of a Lord's acquaintance, for it would save us coach-hire."
"Lord, Miss," cried Polly, "I wish you would; for I should like of all things to ride in a coronet-coach."
"I promise you," said Madame Duval, "I'm glad you've thought of it, for I don't see no objection;-so let's have the coachman called."
"Not for the world," cried I, very much alarmed: "indeed it is utterly impossible."
"Why so?" demanded Mr. Branghton: "pray, where's the good of your knowing a Lord, if your never the better for him?"
"Ma foi, child," said Madame Duval, "you don't know no more of the world that if you was a baby. Pray, Sir, (to one of the footmen) tell that coachman to draw up, for I wants to speak to him."
The man stared, but did not move. "Pray, pray, Madame," said I, "pray, Mr. Branghton, have the goodness to give up this plan; I know but very little of his Lordship, and cannot, upon any account, take so great a liberty."
"Don't say nothing about it," said Madam Duval, "for I shall have it my own way: so, if you won't call the coachman, Sir, I'll promise you I'll call him myself."
The footman, very impertinently, laughed and turned upon his heel. Madame Duval, extremely irritated, ran out in the rain, and beckoned the coachman, who instantly obeyed her summons. Shocked beyond all expression, I flew after her, and entreated her, with the utmost earnestness, to let us return in a hackney coach:-but, oh!-she is impenetrable to persuasion! She told the man she wanted him to carry her directly to town, and that she would answer for him to Lord Orville. The man, with a sneer, thanked her, but said he should answer for himself; and was driving off; when another footman came up to him, with information that his Lord was gone into Kensington Palace, and would not want him for an hour or two.
"Why, then, friend," said Mr. Branghton (for we were followed by all the party), "where will be the great harm of your taking us to town?"
"Besides," said the son, "I'll promise you a pot of beer for my own share."
These speeches had no other answer from the coachman than a loud laugh, which was echoed by the insolent footmen. I rejoiced at their resistance; though I was certain that, if their Lord had witnessed their impertinence, they would have been instantly dismissed his service.
"Pardi," cried Madame Duval, "if I don't think all the footmen are the most impudentest fellows in the kingdom! But I'll promise you I'll have your master told of your airs; so you'll get no good by 'em."
"Why, pray," said the coachman, rather alarmed, "did my Lord give you leave to use the coach?"
"It's no matter for that," answered she; "I'm sure if he's a gentleman, he'd let us have it sooner than we should be wet to the skin; but I'll promise you he shall know how saucy you've been, for this young lady knows him very well."
"Ay, that she does," said Miss Polly; "and she's danced with him too."
Oh, how I repented my foolish mismanagement! The men bit their lips, and looked at one another in some confusion. This was perceived by our party; who, taking advantage of it, protested they would write Lord Orville word of their ill behaviour without delay. This quite startled them; and one of the footmen offered to run to the palace, and ask his Lord's permission for our having the carriage.
This proposal really made me tremble, and the Branghtons all hung back upon it; but Madame Duval is never to be dissuaded from a scheme she has once formed. "Do so," cried she; "and give this child's compliments to your master; and tell him, as we ha'n't no coach here, we should be glad to go just as far as Holborn in his."
"No, no, no!" cried I; "don't go,-I know nothing of his Lordship,-I send no message,-I have nothing to say to him!"
The men, very much perplexed, could with difficulty restrain themselves from resuming their impertinent mirth. Madame Duval scolded me vary angrily, and then desired them to go directly. "Pray, then," said the coachman, "what name is to be given to my Lord?"
"Anville," answered Madame Duval; "tell him Miss Anville wants the coach; the young lady he danced with once."
I was really in an agony; but the winds could not have been more deaf to me, than those to whom I pleaded! and therefore the footman, urged by the repeated threats of Madame Duval, and perhaps recollecting the name himself, actually went to the palace with this strange message!
He returned in a few minutes; and, bowing to me with the greatest respect, said, "My Lord desires his compliments, and his carriage will be always at Miss Anville's service."
I was so much affected by this politeness, and chagrined at the whole affair, that I could scarce refrain from tears. Madame Duval, and the Miss Branghtons eagerly jumped into the coach, and desired me to follow. I would rather have submitted to the severest punishment; but all resistance was vain.
During the whole ride I said not a word: however, the rest of the party were so talkative, that my silence was very immaterial. We stopped at our lodgings; but, when Madame Duval and I alighted, the Branghtons asked if they could not be carried on to Snow-Hill? The servants, now all civility, made no objection. Remonstrances from me would, I too well knew, be fruitless; and therefore, with a heavy heart, I retired to my room, and left them to their own direction.
Seldom have I passed a night in greater uneasiness.-So lately to have cleared myself in the good opinion of Lord Orville,-so soon to forfeit it!-to give him reason to suppose I presumed to boast of his acquaintance!-to publish his having danced with me!-to take with him a liberty I should have blushed to have taken with the most intimate of my friends!-to treat with such impertinent freedom, one who has honoured me with such distinguished respect!-Indeed, Sir, I could have met with no accident that would so cruelly have tormented me!
If such were, then, my feelings, imagine,-for I cannot describe, what I suffered during the scene I am now going to write.
This morning, while I was alone in the dining-room, young Branghton called. He entered with a most important air; and, strutting up to me, said, "Miss, Lord Orville sends his compliments to you."
"Lord Orville!" repeated I, much amazed.
"Yes, Miss, Lord Orville; for I know his Lordship now, as well as you.-And a very civil gentleman he is, for all he's a Lord."
"For Heaven's sake," cried I, "explain yourself."
"Why, you must know, Miss, after we left you, we met with a little misfortune; but I don't mind it now, for it's all turned out for the best: but, just as we were a-going up Snow-Hill, plump we comes against a cart, with such a jogg it almost pulled the coach-wheel off. However, that i'n't the worst; for, as I went to open the door in a hurry, a-thinking the coach would be broke down, as ill-luck would have it, I never minded that the glass was up, and so I poked my head fairly through it.-Only see, Miss, how I've cut my forehead!"
A much worse accident to himself would not, I believe, at that moment have given me any concern for him: however, he proceeded with his account, for I was too much confounded to interrupt him.
"Goodness, Miss, we were in such a stew, us, and the servants, and all, as you can't think; for, besides the glass being broke, the coachman said how the coach wouldn't be safe to go back to Kensington. So we didn't know what to do; however, the footmen said they'd go and tell his Lordship what had happened. So then father grew quite uneasy like, for fear of his Lordship's taking offence, and prejudicing us in our business; so he said I should go this morning and ask his pardon, cause of having broke the glass. So then I asked the footmen the direction, and they told me he lived in Berkeley-square; so this morning I went,-and I soon found out the house."
"You did!" cried I, quite out of breath with apprehension.
"Yes, Miss, and a very fine house it is.-Did you ever see it?"
"No!-why, then, Miss, I know more of his Lordship than you do, for all you knew him first. So, when I came to the door, I was in a peck of troubles, a-thinking what I should say to him: however, the servants had no mind I should see him; for they told me he was busy, but I might leave my message. So I was just a-coming away, when I bethought myself to say I came from you."
"Yes, Miss, for you know, why should I have such a long walk as that for nothing? So I says to the porter, says I, tell his Lordship, says I, one wants to speak to him as comes from one Miss Anville, says I."
"Good God," cried I, "and by what authority did you take such a liberty?"
"Goodness, Miss don't be in such a hurry, for you'll be as glad as me, when you hear how well it all turned out. So then they made way for me, and said his Lordship would see me directly: and there I was led through such a heap of servants, and so many rooms, that my heart quite misgave me; for I thought, thinks I, he'll be so proud he'll hardly let me speak; but he's no more proud than I am, and he was as civil as if I'd been a lord myself. So then I said, I hoped he wouldn't take it amiss about the glass, for it was quite an accident; but he bid me not mention it, for it did not signify. And then he said he hoped you got safe home, and wasn't frightened so I said yes, and I gave your duty to him."
"My duty to him!" exclaimed I,-"and who gave you leave?-who desired you?"
"O, I did it out of my own head, just to make him think I came from you. But I should have told you before, how the footman said he was going out of town to-morrow evening, and that his sister was soon to be married, and that he was a-ordering a heap of things for that; so it come into my head, as he was so affable, that I'd ask him for his custom. So I says, says I, my Lord, says I, if your Lordship i'n't engaged particularly, my father is a silversmith, and he'll be very proud to serve you, says I; and Miss Anville, as danced with you, is his cousin, and she's my cousin too, and she'd be very much obligated to you, I'm sure."
"You'll drive me wild," cried I, starting from my seat, "you have done me an irreparable injury;-but I will hear no more!"-and then I ran into my own room.
I was half frantic, I really raved; the good opinion of Lord Orville seemed now irretrievable lost: a faint hope, which in the morning I had vainly encouraged, that I might see him again, and explain the transaction, wholly vanished, now I found he was so soon to leave town: and I could not but conclude, that, for the rest of my life, he would regard me as an object of utter contempt.
The very idea was a dagger to my heart!-I could not support it, and-but I blush to proceed-I fear your disapprobation; yet I should not be conscious of having merited it, but that the repugnance I feel to relate to you what I have done, makes me suspect I must have erred. Will you forgive me, if I won that I first wrote an account of this transaction to Miss Mirvan?-and that I even thought of concealing it from you?-Short-lived, however, was the ungrateful idea, and sooner will I risk the justice of your displeasure, than unworthily betray your generous confidence.
You are now probably prepared for what follows-which is a letter-a hasty letter, that, in the height of my agitation, I wrote to Lord Orville.
"I am so infinitely ashamed of the application made yesterday for your Lordship's carriage in my name, and so greatly shocked at hearing how much it was injured, that I cannot forbear writing a few lines, to clear myself from the imputation of an impertinence which I blush to be suspected of, and to acquaint you, that the request for your carriage was made against my consent, and the visit with which you were importuned this morning without my knowledge.
"I am inexpressibly concerned at having been the instrument, however innocently, of so much trouble to your Lordship; but I beg you to believe, that the reading these lines is the only part of it which I have given voluntarily. I am, my Lord,
"Your Lordship's most Humble servant, "EVELINA ANVILLE."
I applied to the maid of the house to get this note conveyed to Berkley-square; but scarce had I parted with it, before I regretted having written at all; and I was flying down stairs to recover it, when the voice of Sir Clement Willoughby stopped me. As Madame Duval had ordered we should be denied to him, I was obliged to return up stairs; and after he was gone, my application was too late, as the maid had given it to a porter.
My time did not pass very serenely while he was gone; however, he brought me no answer, but that Lord Orville was not at home. Whether or not he will take the trouble to send any,-or whether he will condescend to call,-or whether the affair will rest as it is, I know not;-but, in being ignorant, am most cruelly anxious.
EVELINA IN CONTINUATION. July 4th.
YOU may now, my dear Sir, send Mrs. Clinton for your Evelina with as much speed as she can conveniently make the journey, for no further opposition will be made to her leaving this town: happy had it perhaps been for her had she never entered it!
This morning Madame Duval desired me to go to Snow-Hill, with an invitation to the Branghtons and Mr. Smith to spend the evening with her; and she desired M. Du Bois, who breakfasted with us, to accompany me. I was very unwilling to obey her, as I neither wished to walk with M. Du Bois, nor yet to meet young Branghton. And, indeed, another, a yet more powerful reason, added to my reluctance;-for I thought it possible that Lord Orville might send some answer, or perhaps might call, during my absence; however, I did not dare dispute her commands.
Poor M. Du Bois spoke not a word during our walk, which was, I believe, equally unpleasant to us both. We found all the family assembled in the shop. Mr. Smith, the moment he perceived me, addressed himself to Miss Branghton, whom he entertained with all the gallantry in his power. I rejoice to find that my conduct at the Hampstead ball has had so good an effect. But young Branghton was extremely troublesome; he repeatedly laughed in my face, and looked so impertinently significant, that I was obliged to give up my reserve to M. Du Bois, and enter into conversation with him merely to avoid such boldness.
"Miss," said Mr. Branghton, "I'm sorry to hear from my son that you wasn't pleased with what we did about that Lord Orville: but I should like to know what it was you found fault with, for we did all for the best."
"Goodness!" cried the son, "why, if you'd seen Miss, you'd have been surprised-she went out of the room quite in a huff, like-"
"It is too late, now," said I, "to reason upon this subject; but, for the future, I must take the liberty to request, that my name may never be made use of without my knowledge. May I tell Madame Duval that you will do her the favour to accept her invitation?"
"As to me, Ma'am," said Mr. Smith, "I am much obliged to the old lady, but I have no mind to be taken in by her again; you'll excuse me, Ma'am."
All the rest promised to come, and I then took leave; but, as I left the shop, I heard Mr. Branghton say, "Take courage, Tom, she's only coy." And, before I had walked ten yards, the youth followed.
I was so much offended that I would not look at him, but began to converse with M. Du Bois, who was now more lively than I had ever before seen him; for, most unfortunately, he misinterpreted the reason of my attention to him.
The first intelligence I received when I came home, was, that two gentlemen had called, and left cards. I eagerly enquired for them, and read the names of Lord Orville and Sir Clement Willoughby. I by no means regretted that I missed seeing the latter, but perhaps I may all my life regret that I missed the former; for probably he has now left town,-and I may see him no more!
"My goodness," cried young Branghton, rudely looking over me, "only think of that Lord's coming all this way! It's my belief he'd got some order ready for father, and so he'd a mind to call and ask you if I'd told him the truth."
"Pray, Betty," cried I, "how long has he been gone?"
"Not two minutes, Ma'am."
"Why then, I'll lay you any wager, "said young Branghton, "he saw you and I a-walking up Holborn Hill."
"God forbid!" cried I, impatiently; and, too much chagrined to bear with any more of his remarks, I ran up stairs; but I heard him say to M. Du Bois, "Miss is so uppish this morning, that I think I had better not speak to her again."
I wish M. Du Bois had taken the same resolution; but he chose to follow me into the dining-room, which he found empty.
"Vous ne l'aimez donc pas, ce garcon, Mademoiselle!" cried he.
"Me!" cried I, "no, I detest him!" for I was sick at heart.
"Ah, tu me rends la vie!" cried he; and, flinging himself at my feet, he had just caught my hand as the door was opened by Madame Duval.
Hastily, and with marks of guilty confusion in his face, he arose; but the rage of that lady quite amazed me! Advancing to the retreating M. Du Bois, she began, in French, an attack, which her extreme wrath and wonderful volubility almost rendered unintelligible; yet I understood but too much, since her reproaches convinced me she had herself proposed being the object of his affection.
He defended himself in a weak and evasive manner; and, upon her commanding him from her sight, very readily withdrew: and then, with yet greater violence, she upbraided me with having seduced his heart, called me an ungrateful, designing girl, and protested she would neither take me to Paris, nor any more interest herself in my affairs, unless I would instantly agree to marry young Branghton.
Frightened as I had been at her vehemence, this proposal restored all my courage; and I frankly told her, that in this point I never could obey her. More irritated than ever, she ordered me to quit the room.
Such is the present situation of affairs. I shall excuse myself from seeing the Branghtons this afternoon: indeed, I never wish to see them again. I am sorry, however innocently, that I have displeased Madame Duval; yet I shall be very glad to quit this town, for I believe it does not now contain one person I ever wish to again meet. Had I but seen Lord Orville, I should regret nothing: I could then have more fully explained what I so hastily wrote; yet it will always be a pleasure to me to recollect that he called, since I flatter myself it was in consequence of his being satisfied with my letter.
Adieu, my dear Sir; the time now approaches when I hope once more to receive your blessing, and to owe all my joy, all my happiness, to your kindness.
MR. VILLARS TO EVELINA. Berry Hill, July 7th.
WELCOME, thrice welcome, my darling Evelina, to the arms of the truest, the fondest of your friends! Mrs. Clinton, who shall hasten to you with these lines, will conduct you directly hither; for I can consent no longer to be parted from the child of my bosom!-the comfort of my age!-the sweet solace of all my infirmities! Your worthy friends at Howard Grove must pardon me that I rob them of the visit you proposed to make them before your return to Berry Hill, for I find my fortitude unequal to a longer separation.
I have much to say to you, many comments to make upon your late letters, some parts of which give me no little uneasiness; but I will reserve my remarks for our future conversations. Hasten, then, to the spot of thy nativity, the abode of thy youth, where never yet care or sorrow had power to annoy thee.-O that they might ever be banished this peaceful dwelling!
Adieu, my dearest Evelina! I pray but that thy satisfaction at our approaching meeting may bear any comparison with mine! ARTHUR VILLARS.
EVELINA TO MISS MIRVAN. Berry Hill, July 14th.
MY Sweet Maria will be much surprised, and I am willing to flatter myself, concerned, when, instead of her friend, she receives this letter;-this cold, this inanimate letter, which will but ill express the feelings of the heart which indites it.
When I wrote to you last Friday, I was in hourly expectation of seeing Mrs. Clinton, with whom I intended to have set out for Howard Grove. Mrs. Clinton came; but my plan was necessarily altered, for she brought me a letter,-the sweetest that ever was penned, from the best and kindest friend that ever orphan was blessed with, requiring my immediate attendance at Berry Hill.
I obeyed,-and pardon me if I own I obeyed without reluctance: after so long a separation, should I not else have been the most ungrateful of mortals?-And yet,-oh, Maria! though I wished to leave London, the gratification of my wish afforded me no happiness! and though I felt an impatience inexpressible to return hither, no words, no language, can explain the heaviness of heart with which I made the journey. I believe you would hardly have known me;-indeed, I hardly know myself. Perhaps, had I first seen you, in your kind and sympathizing bosom I might have ventured to have reposed every secret of my soul;-and then-but let me pursue my journal.
Mrs. Clinton delivered Madame Duval a letter from Mr. Villars, which requested her leave for my return; and, indeed, it was very readily accorded: yet, when she found, by my willingness to quit town that M. Du Bois was really indifferent to me, she somewhat softened in my favour; and declared, that, but for punishing his folly in thinking of such a child, she would not have consented to my being again buried in the country.
All the Branghtons called to take leave of me; but I will not write a word more about them: indeed I cannot, with any patience, think of that family, to whose forwardness and impertinence is owing all the uneasiness I at this moment suffer!
So great was the depression of my spirits upon the road, that it was with great difficulty I could persuade the worthy Mrs. Clinton I was not ill; but, alas! the situation of my mind was such as would have rendered any mere bodily pain, by comparison, even enviable!
And yet, when we arrived at Berry Hill,-when the chaise stopped at this place,-how did my heart throb with joy!-and when, through the window, I beheld the dearest, the most venerable of men, with uplifted hands, returning, as I doubt not, thanks for my safe arrival,-good God! I thought it would have burst my bosom!-I opened the chaise-door myself; I flew,-for my feet did not seem to touch the ground,-into the parlour: he had risen to meet me; but the moment I appeared he sunk into his chair, uttering, with a deep sigh, though his face beamed with delight, "My God, I thank thee!"
I sprung forward; and, with a pleasure that bordered upon agony, I embraced his knees, I kissed his hands, I wept over them, but could not speak: while he, now raising his eyes in thankfulness towards heaven, now bowing down his reverend head, and folding me in his arms, could scarce articulate the blessings with which his kind and benevolent heart overflowed.
O, Miss Mirvan, to be so beloved by the best of men,-should I not be happy?-Should I have one wish save that of meriting his goodness?-Yet think me not ungrateful; indeed I am not, although the internal sadness of my mind unfits me, at present, for enjoying as I ought the bounties of Providence.
I cannot journalize, cannot arrange my ideas into order.
How little has situation to do with happiness! I had flattered myself, that, when restored to Berry Hill, I should be restored to tranquillity: far otherwise have I found it, for never yet had tranquillity and Evelina so little intercourse.
I blush for what I have written. Can you, Maria, forgive my gravity? but I restrain it so much, and so painfully, in the presence of Mr. Villars, that I know not how to deny myself the consolation of indulging it to you.
Adieu, my dear Miss Mirvan.
Yet one thing I must add: do not let the seriousness of this letter deceive you; do not impute to a wrong cause the melancholy I confess, by supposing that the heart of your friend mourns a too great susceptibility: no, indeed! believe me it never was, never can be, more assuredly her own than at this moment. So witness in all truth, Your affectionate, EVELINA.
You will make my excuses to the honoured Lady Howard, and to your dear mother.
EVELINA TO MISS MIRVAN. Berry Hill, July 21st.
YOU accuse me of mystery, and charge me with reserve: I cannot doubt but I must have merited the accusation; yet, to clear myself,-you know not how painful will be the task. But I cannot resist your kind entreaties;-indeed I do not wish to resist them; for your friendship and affection will soothe my chagrin. Had it arisen from any other cause, not a moment would I have deferred the communication you ask;-but as it is, I would, were it possible, not only conceal it from all the world, but endeavour to disbelieve it myself. Yet since I must tell you, why trifle with your impatience?
I know not how to come to the point; twenty times have I attempted it in vain;-but I will force myself to proceed.
Oh, Miss Mirvan, could you ever have believed, that one who seemed formed as a pattern for his fellow-creatures, as a model of perfection,-one whose elegance surpassed all description,-whose sweetness of manners disgraced all comparison;-oh, Miss Mirvan, could you ever have believed that Lord Orville, would have treated me with indignity?
Never, never again will I trust to appearances;-never confide in my own weak judgment;-never believe that person to be good who seems to be amiable! What cruel maxims are we taught by a knowledge of the world!-But while my own reflections absorb me, I forget you are still in suspense.
I had just finished the last letter which I wrote to you from London, when the maid of the house brought me a note. It was given to her, she said, by a footman, who told her he would call the next day for an answer.
This note,-but let it speak for itself.
"To Miss Anville.
"With transport, most charming of thy sex, did I read
with which you yesterday morning favoured me. I am sorry the
affair of the carriage should have given you any concern,
but I am highly flattered by the anxiety you express so
kindly. Believe me, my lovely girl, I am truly sensible
to the honour of your good opinion, and feel myself deeply
penetrated with love and gratitude. The correspondence you
have so sweetly commenced, I shall be proud of continuing;
and I hope the strong sense I have of the favour you do me
will prevent your withdrawing it. Assure yourself, that I
desire nothing more ardently than to pour forth my thanks at
your feet, and to offer those vows which are so justly the
tribute of your charms and accomplishments. In your next
I intreat you to acquaint me how long you shall remain in
town. The servant, whom I shall commission to call for an
answer, has orders to ride post with it to me. My impatience
for his arrival will be very great, though inferior to that
with which I burn to tell you, in person, how much I am,
my sweet girl, your grateful admirer, "ORVILLE."
What a letter! how has my proud heart swelled every line I have copied! What I wrote to him you know; tell me, then, my dear friend, do you think it merited such an answer?-and that I have deservedly incurred the liberty he has taken? I meant nothing but a simple apology, which I thought as much due to my own character as to his; yet by the construction he seems to have put upon it, should you not have imagined it contained the avowal of sentiments which might indeed have provoked his contempt?
The moment the letter was delivered to me, I retired to my own room to read it; and so eager was my first perusal, that,-I am ashamed to own,-it gave me no sensation but of delight. Unsuspicious of any impropriety from Lord Orville, I perceived not immediately the impertinence it implied,-I only marked the expressions of his own regard; and I was so much surprised, that I was unable for some time to compose myself, or read it again:-I could only walk up and down the room, repeating to myself, "Good God, is it possible?-am I then loved by Lord Orville?"
But this dream was soon over, and I awoke to far different feelings. Upon a second reading I thought every word changed,-it did not seem the same letter,-I could not find one sentence that I could look at without blushing: my astonishment was extreme, and it was succeeded by the utmost indignation.
If, as I am very ready to acknowledge, I erred in writing to Lord Orville, was it for him to punish the error? If he was offended, could he not have been silent? If he thought my letter ill-judged, should he not have pitied my ignorance? have considered my youth, and allowed for my inexperience?
Oh, Maria! how have I been deceived in this man! Words have no power to tell the high opinion I had of him; to that was owing the unfortunate solicitude which prompted my writing; a solicitude I must for ever repent!
Yet perhaps I have rather reason to rejoice than to grieve, since this affair has shown me his real disposition, and removed that partiality which, covering his every imperfection, left only his virtues and good qualities exposed to view. Had the deception continued much longer, had my mind received any additional prejudice in his favour, who knows whither my mistaken ideas might have led me? Indeed I fear I was in greater danger than I apprehended, or can now think of without trembling;-for, oh, if this weak heart of mine had been penetrated with too deep an impression of his merit,-my peace and happiness had been lost for ever.
I would fain encourage more cheerful thoughts, fain drive from my mind the melancholy that has taken possession of it; but I cannot succeed: for, added to the humiliating feelings which so powerfully oppress me, I have yet another cause of concern;-alas, my dear Maria, I have broken the tranquillity of the best of men!
I have never had the courage to show him this cruel letter; I could not bear so greatly to depreciate in his opinion, one whom I had, with infinite anxiety, raised in it myself. Indeed, my first determination was to confine my chagrin totally to my own bosom; but your friendly enquiries have drawn it from me: and now I wish I had made no concealment from the beginning, since I know not how to account for a gravity, which not all my endeavours can entirely hide or repress.
My greatest apprehension is, lest he should imagine that my residence in London has given me a distaste to the country. Every body I see takes notice of my being altered, and looking pale and ill. I should be very indifferent to all such observations, did I not perceive that they draw upon me the eyes of Mr. Villars, which glisten with affectionate concern.
This morning, in speaking of my London expedition he mentioned Lord Orville. I felt so much disturbed, that I would instantly have changed the subject; but he would not allow me, and, very unexpectedly, he began his panegyric; extolling in strong terms, his manly and honourable behaviour in regard to the Marybone adventure. My cheeks glowed with indignation every word he spoke;-so lately as I had myself fancied him the noblest of his sex, now that I was so well convinced of my mistake, I could not bear to hear his undeserved praises uttered by one so really good, so unsuspecting, so pure of heart.
What he thought of my silence and uneasiness I fear to know; but I hope he will mention the subject no more. I will not, however, with ungrateful indolence, give way to a sadness which I find infectious to him who merits the most cheerful exertion of my spirits. I am thankful that he has forborne to probe my wound; and I will endeavour to heal it by the consciousness that I have not deserved the indignity I have received. Yet I cannot but lament to find myself in a world so deceitful, where we must suspect what we see, distrust what we hear, and doubt even what we feel!
EVELINA IN CONTINUATION. Berry Hill, July 29th.
I MUST own myself somewhat distressed how to answer your raillery: yet, believe me, my dear Maria, your suggestions are those of fancy, not of truth. I am unconscious of the weakness you suspect; yet, to dispel your doubts, I will animate myself more than ever to conquer my chagrin, and to recover my spirits.
You wonder, you say, since my heart takes no part in this affair, why it should make me so unhappy? And can you, acquainted as you are with the high opinion I entertained of Lord Orville, can you wonder that so great a disappointment in his character should affect me? Indeed, had so strange a letter been sent to me from any body, it could not have failed shocking me; how much more sensibly, then, must I feel such an affront, when received from the man in the world I had imagined least capable of giving it?
You are glad I made no reply; assure yourself, my dear friend, had this letter been the most respectful that could be written, the clandestine air given to it, by his proposal of sending his servant for my answer, instead of having it directed to his house, would effectually have prevented my writing. Indeed, I have an aversion the most sincere to all mysteries, all private actions; however foolishly and blameably, in regard to this letter, I have deviated from the open path which, from my earliest infancy, I was taught to tread.
He talks of my having commenced a correspondence with him: and could Lord Orville indeed believe I had such a design? believe me so forward, so bold, so strangely ridiculous? I know not if his man called or not; but I rejoice that I quitted London before he came, and without leaving any message for him. What, indeed, could I have said? it would have been a condescension very unmerited to have taken any, the least notice of such a letter.
Never shall I cease to wonder how he could write it. Oh, Maria! what, what could induce him so causelessly to wound and affront one who would sooner have died than wilfully offended him? -How mortifying a freedom of style! how cruel an implication conveyed by his thanks and expressions of gratitude! Is it not astonishing, that any man can appear so modest, who is so vain?
Every hour I regret the secrecy I have observed with my beloved Mr. Villars; I know not what bewitched me, but I felt at first a repugnance to publishing this affair that I could not surmount;-and now, I am ashamed of confessing that I have any thing to confess! Yet I deserve to be punished for the false delicacy which occasioned my silence, since, if Lord Orville himself was contented to forfeit his character, was it for me, almost at the expense of my own, to support it?
Yet I believe I should be very easy, now the first shock is over, and now that I see the whole affair with the resentment it merits, did not all my good friends in this neighbourhood, who think me extremely altered, tease me about my gravity, and torment Mr. Villars with observations upon my dejection and falling away. The subject is no sooner started, than a deep gloom overspreads his venerable countenance, and he looks at me with a tenderness so melancholy, that I know not how to endure the consciousness of exciting it.
Mrs. Selwyn, a lady of large fortune, who lives about three miles from Berry Hill, and who has always honoured me with very distinguishing marks of regard, is going, in a short time, to Bristol, and has proposed to Mr. Villars to take me with her for the recovery of my health. He seemed very much distressed whether to consent or refuse; but I, without any hesitation, warmly opposed the scheme, protesting my health could no where be better than in this pure air. He had the goodness to thank me for this readiness to stay with him; but he is all goodness! Oh, that it were in my power to be indeed what, in the kindness of his heart, he has called me, the comfort of his age, and solace of his infirmities!
Never do I wish to be again separated from him. If here I am grave, elsewhere I should be unhappy. In his presence, with a very little exertion, all the cheerfulness of my disposition seems ready to return; the benevolence of his countenance reanimates, the harmony of his temper composes, the purity of his character edifies me! I owe to him every thing! and, far from finding my debt of gratitude a weight, the first pride, the first pleasure of my life, is the recollection of the obligations conferred upon me by a goodness so unequalled.
Once, indeed, I thought there existed another,-who, when time had wintered o'er his locks, would have shone forth among his fellow-creatures with the same brightness of worth which dignifies my honoured Mr. Villars; a brightness how superior in value to that which results from mere quickness of parts, wit, or imagination! a brightness, which, not contented with merely diffusing smiles, and gaining admiration from the sallies of the spirits, reflects a real and a glorious lustre upon all mankind! Oh, how great was my error! how ill did I judge! how cruelly have I been deceived!
I will not go to Bristol, though Mrs. Selwyn is very urgent with me;-but I desire not to see any more of the world! the few months I have already passed in it, have sufficed to give me a disgust even to its name.
I hope, too, I shall see Lord Orville no more: accustomed, from my first knowledge of him, to regard him as a being superior to his race, his presence, perhaps, might banish my resentment, and I might forget his ill conduct; for oh, Maria!-I should not know how to see Lord Orville -and to think of displeasure!
As a sister I loved him;-I could have entrusted him with every thought of my heart, had he deigned to wish my confidence: so steady did I think his honour, so feminine his delicacy, and so amiable his nature! I have a thousand times imagined that the whole study of his life, and whole purport of his reflections, tended solely to the good and happiness of others: but I will talk,-write,-think of him no more! Adieu, my dear friend!
EVELINA IN CONTINUATION. Berry Hill, August 10th.
YOU complain of my silence, my dear Miss Mirvan;-but what have I to write? Narrative does not offer, nor does a lively imagination supply the deficiency. I have, however, at present, sufficient matter for a letter, in relating a conversation I had yesterday with Mr. Villars.
Our breakfast had been the most cheerful we have had since my return hither; and when it was over, he did not, as usual, retire to his study, but continued to converse with me while I worked. We might, probably, have passed all the morning thus sociably, but for the entrance of a farmer, who came to solicit advice concerning some domestic affairs. They withdrew together into the study.
The moment I was alone my spirits failed me; the exertion with which I had supported them had fatigued my mind; I flung away my work, and, leaning my arms on the table, gave way to a train of disagreeable reflections, which, bursting from the restraint that had smothered them, filled me with unusual sadness.
This was my situation, when, looking towards the door, which was open,
I perceived Mr. Villars, who was earnestly regarding me. "Is Farmer
Smith gone, Sir?" cried I, hastily rising, and snatching up my work.
"Don't let me disturb you," said he, gravely; "I will go again to my study."
"Will you, Sir?-I was in hopes you were coming to sit here."
"In hopes!-and why, Evelina, should you hope it?"
This question was so unexpected, that I knew not how to answer it; but, as I saw he was moving away, I followed, and begged him to return. "No, my dear, no," said he, with a forced smile, "I only interrupt your meditations."
Again I knew not what to say; and while I hesitated, he retired. My heart was with him, but I had not the courage to follow. The idea of an explanation, brought on in so serious a manner, frightened me. I recollected the inference you had drawn from my uneasiness, and I feared that he might make a similar interpretation.
Solitary and thoughtful, I passed the rest of the morning in my own room. At dinner I again attempted to be cheerful; but Mr. Villars himself was grave, and I had not sufficient spirits to support a conversation merely by my own efforts. As soon as dinner was over, he took a book, and I walked to the window. I believe I remained near an hour in this situation. All my thoughts were directed to considering how I might dispel the doubts which I apprehended Mr. Villars had formed, without acknowledging a circumstance which I had suffered so much pain merely to conceal. But while I was thus planning for the future, I forgot the present; and so intent was I upon the subject which occupied me, that the strange appearance of my unusual inactivity and extreme thoughtfulness never occurred to me. But when, at last, I recollected myself, and turned round, I saw that Mr. Villars, who had parted with his book, was wholly engrossed in attending to me. I started from my reverie, and, hardly knowing what I said, asked if he had been reading?
He paused a moment, and then replied, "Yes, my child;-a book that both afflicts and perplexes me."
He means me, thought I; and therefore I made no answer.
"What if we read it together?" continued he, "will you assist me to clear its obscurity?"
I knew not what to say; but I sighed involuntarily from the bottom of my heart. He rose, and approaching me, said, with emotion, "My child, I can no longer be a silent witness of thy sorrow,-is not thy sorrow my sorrow?-and ought I to be a stranger to the cause, when I so deeply sympathize in the effect?"
"Cause, Sir!" cried I, greatly alarmed, "what cause?-I don't know,-I can't tell-I-"
"Fear not," said he, kindly, "to unbosom thyself to me, my dearest Evelina; open to me thy whole heart,-it can have no feelings for which I will not make allowance. Tell me, therefore, what it is that thus afflicts us both; and who knows but I may suggest some means of relief?"
"You are too, too good," cried I, greatly embarrassed; "but indeed
I know not what you mean."
"I see," said he, "it is painful to you to speak: suppose, then,
I endeavour to save you by guessing?"
"Impossible! impossible!" cried I, eagerly; "no one living could ever guess, ever suppose-" I stopped abruptly; for I then recollected I was acknowledging something was to be guessed: however, he noticed not my mistake.
"At least let me try," answered he, mildly; "perhaps I may be a better diviner than you imagine: if I guess every thing that is probable, surely I must approach near the real reason. Be honest, then, my love, and speak without reserve;-does not the country, after so much gaiety, so much variety, does it not appear insipid and tiresome?"
"No, indeed! I love it more than ever, and more than ever do I wish
I had never, never quitted it!"
"Oh, my child! that I had not permitted the journey! My judgment always opposed it, but my resolution was not proof against persuasion."
"I blush, indeed," cried I, "to recollect my earnestness;-but I have been my own punisher!"
"It is too late now," answered he, "to reflect upon this subject; let us endeavour to avoid repentance for the time to come, and we shall not have erred without reaping some instruction." Then, seating himself, and making me sit by him, he continued, "I must now guess again: perhaps you regret the loss of those friends you knew in town;-perhaps you miss their society, and fear you may see them no more?-perhaps Lord Orville-"
I could not keep my seat; but, rising hastily, said, "Dear Sir, ask me nothing more!-for I have nothing to own,-nothing to say;-my gravity has been merely accidental, and I can give no reason for it at all.-Shall I fetch you another book?-or will you have this again?"
For some minutes he was totally silent, and I pretended to employ myself in looking for a book. At last, with a deep sigh, "I see," said he, "I see but too plainly, that though Evelina is returned,-I have lost my child!"
"No, Sir, no," cried I, inexpressibly shocked, "she is more your's than ever! Without you, the world would be a desert to her, and life a burthen:-forgive her, then, and,-if you can,-condescend to be, once more, the confidant of all her thoughts."
"How highly I value, how greatly I wish for her confidence," returned he, "she cannot but know;-yet to extort, to tear it from her,-my justice, my affection both revolt at the idea. I am sorry that I was so earnest with you;-leave me, my dear, leave me, and compose yourself; we will meet again at tea."
"Do you then refuse to hear me?"
"No, but I abhor to compel you. I have long seen that your mind has been ill at ease, and mine has largely partaken of your concern: I forbore to question you; for I hoped that time and absence, from whatever excited your uneasiness, might best operate in silence: but, alas! your affliction seems only to augment,-your health declines,-your look alters!-Oh, Evelina, my aged heart bleeds to see the change!-bleeds to behold the darling it had cherished, the prop it had reared for its support, when bowed down by years and infirmities, sinking itself under the pressure of internal grief!-struggling to hide what it should seek to participate!-But go, my dear, go to your own room; we both want composure, and we will talk of this matter some other time."
"Oh, Sir," cried I, penetrated to the soul, "bid me not leave you!-think me not so lost to feeling, to gratitude-"
"Not a word of that," interrupted he: "it pains me you should think upon that subject; pains me you should ever remember that you have not a natural, an hereditary right to every thing within my power. I meant not to affect you thus,-I hoped to have soothed you!-but my anxiety betrayed me to an urgency that has distressed you. Comfort yourself, my love; and doubt not but that time will stand your friend, and all will end well."
I burst into tears: with difficulty had I so long restrained them; for my heart, while it glowed with tenderness and gratitude, was oppressed with a sense of its own unworthiness. "You are all, all goodness!" cried I, in a voice scarce audible; "little as I deserve,-unable as I am to repay, such kindness,-yet my whole soul feels,-thanks you for it!"
"My dearest child," cried he, "I cannot bear to see thy tears;-for my sake dry them: such a sight is too much for me: think of that, Evelina, and take comfort, I charge thee!"
"Say then," cried I, kneeling at his feet, "say then that you forgive me! that you pardon my reserve,-that you will again suffer me to tell you my most secret thoughts, and rely upon my promise never more to forfeit your confidence!-my father!-my protector!-my ever-honoured,-ever-loved-my best and only friend!-say you forgive your Evelina, and she will study better to deserve your goodness!"
He raised, he embraced me: he called me his sole joy, his only earthly hope, and the child of his bosom! He folded me to his heart; and, while I wept from the fulness of mine, with words of sweetest kindness and consolation, he soothed and tranquillised me.
Dear to my remembrance will ever be that moment when, banishing the reserve I had so foolishly planned, and so painfully supported, I was restored to the confidence of the best of men!
When at length we were again quietly and composedly seated by each other, and Mr. Villars waited for the explanation I had begged him to hear, I found myself extremely embarrassed how to introduce the subject which must lead to it. He saw my distress; and with a kind of benevolent pleasantry, asked me if I would let him guess any more? I assented in silence.
"Shall I, then, go back to where I left off?"
"If-if you please;-I believe so,-" said I, stammering.
"Well, then, my love, I think I was speaking of the regret it was natural you should feel upon quitting those from whom you had received civility and kindness, with so little certainty of ever seeing them again, or being able to return their good offices. These are circumstances that afford but melancholy reflections to young minds; and the affectionate disposition of my Evelina, open to all social feelings, must be hurt more than usual by such considerations.-You are silent, my dear. Shall I name those whom I think most worthy the regret I speak of? We shall then see if our opinions coincide."
Still I said nothing, and he continued.
"In your London journal, nobody appears in a more amiable, a more respectable light than Lord Orville; and perhaps-"
"I knew what you would say," cried I, hastily, "and I have long feared
where your suspicions would fall; but indeed, Sir, you are mistaken:
I hate Lord Orville,-he is the last man in the world in whose favour
I should be prejudiced."
I stopped; for Mr. Villars looked at me with such infinite surprise, that my own warmth made me blush.
"You hate Lord Orville!" repeated he.
I could make no answer; but took from my pocket-book the letter, and giving it to him, "See, Sir," said I, "how differently the same man can talk and write!"
He read it three times before he spoke; and then said, "I am so much astonished, that I know not what I read. When had you this letter?"
I told him. Again he read it, and, after considering its contents some time, said, "I can form but one conjecture concerning this most extraordinary performance: he must certainly have been intoxicated when he wrote it."
"Lord Orville intoxicated!" repeated I: "once I thought him a stranger to all intemperance;-but it is very possible, for I can believe any thing now."
"That a man who had behaved with so strict a regard to delicacy," continued Mr. Villars, "and who, as far as occasion had allowed, manifested sentiments the most honourable, should thus insolently, thus wantonly, insult a modest young woman, in his perfect senses, I cannot think possible. But, my dear, you should have inclosed this letter in an empty cover, and have returned it to him again: such a resentment would at once have become your character, and have given him an opportunity, in some measure, of clearing his own. He could not well have read this letter the next morning without being sensible of the impropriety of having written it."
Oh, Maria! why had I not this thought? I might then have received some apology; the mortification would then have been his, not mine. It is true, he could not have reinstated himself so highly in my opinion as I had once ignorantly placed him, since the conviction of such intemperance would have levelled him with the rest of his imperfect race; yet my humbled pride might have been consoled by his acknowledgments.
But why should I allow myself to be humbled by a man who can suffer his reason to be thus abjectly debased, when I am exalted by one who knows no vice, and scarcely a failing, but by hearsay? To think of his kindness, and reflect upon his praises, might animate and comfort me even in the midst of affliction. "Your indignation," said he, "is the result of virtue; you fancied Lord Orville was without fault-he had the appearance of infinite worthiness, and you supposed his character accorded with appearance: guileless yourself, how could you prepare against the duplicity of another? Your disappointment has but been proportioned to your expectations, and you have chiefly owed its severity to the innocence which hid its approach."
I will bid these words dwell ever in my memory, and they shall cheer, comfort, and enliven me! This conversation, though extremely affecting to me at the time it passed, has relieved my mind from much anxiety. Concealment, my dear Maria, is the foe of tranquillity: however I may err in future, I will never be disingenuous in acknowledging my errors. To you and to Mr. Villars I vow an unremitting confidence.
And yet, though I am more at ease, I am far from well: I have been some time writing this letter; but I hope I shall send you soon a more cheerful one.
Adieu, my sweet friend. I intreat you not to acquaint even your dear mother with this affair; Lord Orville is a favourite with her, and why should I publish that he deserves not that honour?